‘Steep rise’ in teachers struggling with mental health

Teachers are not asking for help until they are in crisis, says support charity – with number of teachers at risk of suicide rising 57 per cent

teacher mental health

An emotional support helpline for teachers in crisis received its highest-ever volume of calls last year.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, counsellors at the Education Support Partnership dealt with 9,615 cases of both teachers and classroom support assistants in crisis – up 28 per cent on two years ago.

And the number of callers clinically assessed to be at risk of suicide rose to 561 last year, up by 57 per cent on the previous year.

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Many cases related to workplace stress, while other common issues included bullying, harassment and conflict at work, says the charity.

More than half of callers were within their first five years of teaching.

Chief executive Sinead McBrearty said: "We can see a steep rise in teachers struggling to maintain good wellbeing and mental health in extremely challenging times in the profession.

"It is striking that teachers are not asking for help at the first, or even second, sign of difficulty. The vast majority of callers only get in touch when they are in crisis.

“Rising numbers of callers are new to teaching or at an early stage in their careers.”

The charity’s report out today shows that, in March this year alone, the charity managed 1,156 cases, making it the busiest month its confidential helpline has ever had.

It also shows that:

  • Helpline cases related to workplace stress grew by 49 per cent compared to the previous year.
  • 57 per cent of helpline cases involved staff who have been working in education for under five years.
  • 46 per cent of cases were staff working in primary schools.

Last year, the charity revealed in its Teacher Wellbeing Index that a total of 31 per cent of teachers had experienced a mental health problem in the past academic year – up a third since the previous year.

It says that at present, only 43 per cent of classroom teachers are aware they can access the free and confidential telephone counselling.

Of those who have used it, an overwhelming number said that talking to one of the trained counsellors improved how they were able to cope with problems, while 87 per cent said they felt better equipped to deal with their problems after accessing support, either after one call or through a number of structured sessions talking to a counsellor.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, said: “It is very concerning to see so many reports of serious stress from the teaching profession, but unfortunately not surprising. Teachers and school leaders are increasingly being asked to do more with less, as the pressures of high-stakes accountability, the funding crisis, and heavy workloads bear down.

"We have a serious issue with retention – we can’t afford to lose teachers to stress. We’d encourage all school staff to make sure they put themselves and their mental health first, and to take time out to take advantage of services like the Education Support Partnership helpline as soon as help is needed.”

If you are an education professional suffering problems with mental health, you can call the charity’s confidential helpline on 0800 056 2561.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:  “We want every child to be taught by great teachers who have the time, freedom and support to do what they do best - inspire the next generation. 

“Where staff are struggling we trust headteachers to take action to tackle the causes of stress and ensure they have the support they need.

“In March, the Secretary of State announced the launch of an Expert Advisory Group to look at how teachers and school leaders can be better supported to deal with the pressures of the job, which builds on our Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy which focuses on the importance of developing supportive cultures.”

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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